Microplastics and health

Microplastics (0.001 – 0.1 mm) are everywhere – in the sea, in the air, in the rivers, in the water we drink and the food we eat. The potential for an impact on human health is high via both particle toxicity and chemical toxicity (including via preferentially adsorbed chemicals on their surface). However, the rush to publicise this threat has left many important questions unanswered.

Which routes for microplastics to enter the body are most important? Which systems and organs may be sites for accumulation of a burden of microplastics? Which physiological systems and organs may therefore be most vulnerable to microplastics?

There is an extensive body of literature on polymer particle effects on human cells and organ physiology, and the outcomes of decades of exposure to e.g. wear debris from polymer joint replacement components have also been analysed.

The aim of this project is to summarise the literature on effects of microplastics on human health and to develop simple models to provide quantitative answers to these important questions.

Published by marktoxford

Associate Professor in Engineering Science, University of Oxford